FAD GADGET INTERVIEW
15 March, 1980
This is an interview I did for my Japanese Rock Magazine article (September 1980). It was conducted in a cafe in South Kensington, followed by a photo session at the Science Museum (again :-)
I first saw Fad Gadget supporting the Monochrome Set at the Notre Dame Hall in October 1979, in the days when Frank was playing solo. That's possibly why the Monochrome Set crops up a lot in this interview: Frank knew I'd already interviewed them and they were our common ground.
I have recently re-discovered the negatives from the photo session, although the photos are by our photographer John Kersey, not myself, so some previously unpublished images are included below.
Why do you play under a "band" name, instead of your own name?
For a start, Fad Gadget is like the name of a group, although there's only one person in it at the moment, but when I play Germany, there'll be two more people playing with me. Also because I wanted a name that stands out, sounds unusual, and also I don't really want to use my own name because I want to do other things in my own name. I'd like to use lots of different names and do all sorts of things, because I don't only work in music, really. In the past I've done some performance art and theatre and things like that, so I can do other things and play to a different audience each time. Also the name Fad Gadget - I thought of that because... calling yourself Human League and Gary Numand and anything like that, I thought they were really pretentious. I thought the idea of calling myself Fad Gadget is a kind of masochistic thing, saying that I'm just nothing, I'm a cheap object.... Which everything is, in music business.
So you called yourself Fad Gadget when you first started playing live?
No, I had done things before then, I started playing music when I was 14. But my first actual gig was a few years back, in a group called the Fans - there's another group going on at the moment called the Fans, but nothing to do with them. I wrote all the songs for the group, and I was the lead singer in the group. There were about ten of us in that band, that's why I decided to go solo, because it got on my nerves working with other people. Like we'd rehearsed something and they worked out really well, and when it came to doing it on the night, everything was really sloppy, and I'd be trying to get the drum to play a steady beat, and he'd be doing a drum solo... That's why I bought a drum machine, that's why I decided to go solo. Then I could call myself Fad Gadget when I went solo.
How Many gigs have you done so far?
Done about 6 or 7, I think.
Since when? When was the first time?
At the Moonlight.
With the Monochrome Set? [18 July 1979]
Yeah, that's right. Were you there?
No, I wasn't in England then. What's the reason you don't do so many gigs?
Well, I did. They were quite close to each other, those gigs. I decided not to do any for a little while, because I was going to start working with this chap on this theatre project. He had a play he wanted to take around Holland, and he asked me to do the music to it, and so I haven't arranged any gigs for a length of time, because I thought I'd be working on that. But it all went wrong because it was badly organised, he never phoned me up. So the situation was a bit uneasy. We never got on that well. So that fell through, and I decided to call it all off. So, because of that, I haven't been doing any gigs, but now, as I said, I'll be touring Germany soon. When I come back from there, I'll be doing lots of gigs in England, tour with the Monochrome Set.
Their UK tour?
Do you think Daniel Miller has had influence on you, in any way?
I had never heard of him before I met him. I'd heard his record a couple of times, and somebody told me that he was looking for people to sign to his label, so I got his phone number and phoned him up. But I'd never been influenced by him before then, though I'm influenced by him now. We've been working together on the latest single, "Ricky's Hand", we worked on that together. Daniel worked out the musical side, and I was at the lyrics. We went to record it, we worked on it as a team, really. Whereas "Back to Nature" was already worked out and he helped me.
So you hadn't heard of him before you signed to Mute?
I'd heard of him a few weeks before, but he hadn't influenced me.
But was he the reason why you were interested in Mute?
Yeah, because I knew he was looking for people to sign on to his label, and I liked his record very much. And I'd just liked to meet him and see how things go, and it turned out that we got on well.
Then what's your influence? Biggest influence?
My biggest influence?
Anything. Musically, or...
Iggy Pop. Really obvious ones: Eno, Bowie, Suicide. I like Suicide very much. I was living in Leeds for 3 years, before coming down to London, that's when I started working on Fad Gadget kind of musical thing. The only electronic people I'd heard then were Donna Summer and Kraftwerk. So I didn't really consider what I was doing as electronic music, because all I used was drum machine and simple bass riff, you know. Things like that was just for functional aspect, really. If I was going to play solo, I needed a drum beat, so I bought a drum machine, and I needed some kind of bass line, so I recorded that on tape. At first I never used synthesizer, just electric piano and drum machine. My influence is Lou Reed, Velvet Underground in general I think, John Cale. The Monochrome Set I'm not influenced by, but I like them. I'd really like to be able to sing like Bid. I'm influenced by lots of things really, not only music.
What sort of things besides music?
Theatre and things like that. I'm very interested at the moment in Ken Campbell's Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool. I'd like to work with them, actually. I've seen some of their things like The Walk. It was 23 hours long, a play 23 hours long.
Yeah, amazing. I'm influenced by lots of things.
Who's your favourite author?
Genet, Jean Genet. Been through the usual rubbish, Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, usual sort of things. Very boring, really (laughs.)
When did the first single come out?
In September. It came out on my birthday.
When's your bithday?
It came out on the 8th of... no, it wasn't really. It came out a couple of days after, it was after September the 8th.
I'll remember that. How many songs have you written?
In my life?
No, how many Fad Gadget songs?
About a dozen, but only about 8 good ones.
You don't think your live show or your songs have a sexual image?
I don't. Well... (laughs.)
Because I really think it does.
I think that probably comes from the performance work I've done before. Because I did a lot of mime, performance art, and that was quite sexual. As I said, it's just come over from that. I did a performance once when I made love to a vaccuum cleaner (laughs.) That was quite erotic.
When you lie on top of the keyboard, is that supposed to mean you're making love to it?
Yeah. That just happened. I mean, I didn't sort of plan or anything. I just felt like doing it, so I did it (laughs.)
I think all movements are physical, if not sexual, in a way. Not many people know it, but I did ballet classes and things like that when I did mime. It comes from that, just enjoying moving. But that was my first gig where I've let myself go, before then I just stuck to the piano. That's why I wanted people to back me on stage, so that I can be more free to sing and perform to the audience, rather than just be stuck. I can't play instruments at all, everything I play is just one-finger, on piano, electric piano, it's just like that, through a fuzz pedal. It's all fuzz pedal, so any bum note I play you can't hear. I have to look at the key when I play, because I'm not really good at it, so I can't move around too much. I hope to move around a bit more when somebody's backing me.
What are your songs mostly about?
All sorts of things, really. I don't like songs about machines, I think that's boring, like Gary Numan and things like that. Just about ordinary situations. Back to Nature is just about people who think they're getting back to the basic way of living, going to the countryside and things like that, but they're still taking along their fly sprays, Ambre Solaire [sunscreen cream] and sunshades, and they're going in their car and staying in a caravan or tent. Not really going back to nature. It's so safe and, you know, they might as well be back in London. The Box, the B-side, is about claustophobia. Ricky's Hand is about drinking and driving, which I feel strongly about. So they're just about ordinary everyday things, things I do feel I have something to say.
Who's Ricky? Is it someone you actually know?
It's a friend of mine. It's a true story, actually. He's drunk a lot and just gone mad in his car, and one day he was going along really drunk, slipped on ice and he crashed, head-on collision with another car. His friend got out and ran away. He got out, ran to the phone box and phoned his father. It was his fault so he tried to run away, but the policemen caught him. He tried to jump over a wall, it wasn't till then he realised his hand was smashed in. As he jumped, he gripped the wall and he suddenly got a pain in his hand, and he fell onto the floor. The police caught him and he spent the rest of the night in a prison cell, and they didn't give him a Band Aid or anything, his hand was just bleeding. The song is not really based on that, [but] that gave me the idea. The song is like a Government satefy films you see on television, you know the one with a hand with a gun? That sort of thing, you just see a hand in a pub, having a drink. It's like a film of a hand, everything a hand does in the evening: getting his money out of bank, at the toilet, being sick, leaving, getting into the car, crashing, then you just see the severed hand by the side of the road (laughs.) It's supposed to be funny, actually.
What do you do most of the time besides playing?
Just living. Eat, drink, sleep (laughs.)
You must have lots of spare time.
Only recently. Only last few weeks. I've left work only a few weeks ago, you see, I worked in a warehouse, moving beds... very boring. I worked there for 15 months. It's horrible.
So from now on you're going to make your living from music?
Are you thinking of doing an album?
Yes, when I come back from Germany, maybe after the tour with the Monochrome Set.
You were supposed to be playing with Dr Mix & Remix.
No, I wasn't. That was a mistake.
I went there hoping to see you!
Ah! That's why I've seen you before, I think. Did I see you there? Did you see me?
I don't know...
I think so, because I've seen you before.
Probably. I was there. Yeah, what happened was the promoter's fault. It was supposed to be DAF and Dr Mix, and they messed it up and put my name down, so lots of people had come to see me and Dr Mix. And it turned out Dr Mix didn't come over from France, so they weren't there either. So it was just DAF and the other band, a lot of people didn't even bother to come as a result.
How about the Numan thing? Do you get compared to Gary Numan?
What do I think of him? I don't think much really. I think our objectives are completely different, you know. I hope to do a lot more expermental things in music and use music in different ways. What he seems to be doing is just try and do his best to become another David Bowie. If you listen to the B-side I used for Ricky's Hand, that's something a bit different. In the past I've used music for performance, like my own shows I did. I don't only use rock'n'roll sort of image but all types of music.
I've always used tape decks and things. I thought I'd invented tape loop when I was 14. I didn't know it had already been done (laughs.) I discovered it for myself, and I've always been working in music, in the experimental field. I can't play any musical instruments, so I realised at an early age... [unfortunately this section is very muddled and unclear in the original transcript!] But I'm not that interested in singles all the time, I'd like to work on albums, really.
Are you interested in any other bands?
Yeah, the Monochrome Set. I quite like their music, but I want to wait until the album is out, now that they're sold out to DinDisc.
You haven't heard it?
I've heard the cassette, it was on a really rubbishy cassette player so I couldn't really hear it properly. I can't really make up my mind about it.... (he sees my promo copy of the cassette) Ah, great! Can I borrow it?
Yeah, but the thing is, I've already worn it out, the last bit.
It's worn out?
[A conversation about the said Monochrome Set cassette follows, which is not transcribed.]
Yeah, people I like at the moment, er... Suicide... Daniel Miller, DAF. DAF's my favourite group at the moment.
I haven't seen them live.
They're really good.
Those bands you mentioned, do you like them musically or visually, or the whole thing?
Musically. I'm not really into padded shoulders and things, buttons down the side and haircuts like that. As you can see, I'm really scruffy, I'm a tramp, really (laughs.) Sometimes I wear suits and dress really smart, other times I just can't be bothered and let myself go. At the moment, I'm letting myself go. Germany's coming up, and I think I'm fitter now than I've ever been for a long time. I'm trying to go for a run every other day, you know, try and keep myself fit.
Do you usually wear those red trousers onstage? [I'm refering to the trousers Frank was wearing at Notre Dame - I thought he looked great in them!]
That was the first time I wore them. Why?
Just wondered. What do you usually wear?
Jeans, black trousers, just trousers and a T-shirt.
Do you think the visuals are important?
Yeah, very important, but that's why I just wear trousers and a T-shirt, because I'm very wary of putting myself up in a certain kind of image, because once you get a certain image you tend to attract a certain type of people to your gigs, and I'd like to try and appeal to a wider audience. I mean, I've done things in the past where I've worn a fancy costume and a make-up and that sort of things. I was doing that years ago in performance, so I don't get any thrill from wearing make-ups and things like that any more (laughs.)
Anything else to talk about?
Yeah, when can you arrange me to do a tour in Japan?
I'll try (laugh.)
Because I've always wanted to go there.
What do you know about Japan?
Nothing. The only thing I know about Japan are things like Noh theatre and Kabuki. I find that fascinating.
It's become very fashionable, hasn't it? There are two exhibitions on in London.
Yeah, there's one on at the V&A at the moment.
And the Liberty's.
I want to go and see that. Actually, my girlfriend was going to come with me, maybe we could go and see the Japanese exhibition while we're here, and you can tell her if it's true or not, or if it's what it's really like (laughs.) I'm really interested in Japanese culture, I don't think I like the business side of it. I've seen films of thousands of cars and skyscrapers and all that, I hate that sort of things.
Yeah, I don't really like that sort of American image.
I hate the American thing too.
I'd really like to go to New York but I'm sure I'll hate it.
Yeah, I'm sure I wouldn't like it. I hate things like McDonalds, things like that, you know.
I'm sorry for being very boring at the moment. Everything's an effort at the moment, I'm always falling asleep. Basically I'm very lazy, even getting up in the morning is an effort.
What did you think of our magazine?
I really like it, I like the way it's layed out. You should do an English magazine you have to read backwards. I like the idea of having a record in it. [Rock Magazine used to include a flexidisc in each issue.] Actually, before I started working on Fad Gadget thing, I was thinking of bringing out a magazine myself. It was going to be called "Discomix" - "Disco Mix" or "Dis Comix" - and that was going to be one page, it was going to be a flexidisc, not cut out, so it was like a page and it was all going to be that size. It was cartoons, articles, not necessarily about music business but just lots of different ideas, people and their work, and a record every month. It was just a few ideas. But I couldn't get enough people together, I didn't know that many people who were writers and things. I know a couple, and I could have got one magazine together, but I probably didn't have enough people to do the next one, so it never really got off the ground.
It's very hard work, you know, doing a magazine.
You have to do it issue after issue, that's the thing. Very tiring, sleepless nights...
You've got to have so many writers and so many illustrators to start with. You can't do everything yourself, you've got to have other people. And really, I prefer not to do anything unless I can do it alone and then get other people to help me afterwards.
[A conversation about magazines and Bauhaus follows - not transcribed.]
Did you play at the Billy's?
Billy's, yeah, one night.
When was that?
A couple of months ago now. It was terrible. You got there and the PA broke down, so that's why I played through disco speakers, and I was using the actual mike that the DJ uses. That was really distorted, like playing through a fuzz box, really terrible. It went down quite well, but there were only about a dozen people there.
That's not the least I played to. I've played in Bogner Regis once to 3 people, with the Monochrome Set. In all there were about 50 people, but it was a massive working man's club type of gig, great big dance floor, thousands of seats down one side, thoudands down another, two great big long bars, so 50 people just got lost stading at the bar. And when I came onstage there were three people, two sitting on that side and one there, but we went on anyway, played to the three people (laughs.)
You could have dedicated a song to each one of them.
Yeah, I could dedicate five songs to each of them (laughs.) It was quite good, actually, I enjoyed it because I got off the stage, I sat right in front of them and stared at them.
(c) Akiko Hada 1980/2019